I’ve been drowning lately.
Not in the physical sense, because it’s too cold for that. Not in the emotional sense, because even in the worst hours, I know that it will pass. I suppose you can say I’ve been drowning in the most literal figurative sense of the world, the material but nonphysical sense, buried under a tidal wave which wouldn’t exist at all if it weren’t for the storm that I created.
A year ago. Or maybe even before that.
The culmination of all this restlessness, movement, dissatisfaction, exhaustion, and ambition.
My home, right now, is literally a maze of half-empty boxes and half-realized dreams. I am constantly tripping and slipping over plastic wrap, torn paper, missing parts to things I bought a long time ago. I am grieving incessantly in confusion and shame. I hate my new home with a vengeance and yet I love it to the point of obsession, insanity, rip-my-heart-out kind of pain from how desperately I need it to be what it is, where it is, after what feels like a lifetime of needing a sanctuary, safety, and a place to simply be. To exist.
In all my mistakes and grand imperfection.
In what I’m always hoping to be the last stage of my grief, the lonely part of my journey. But it never is.
With my ears buzzing. Eyes watering. My body and my heart unhealed. My limbs crooked and my muscles heavy. I hate these blue walls and these slanted hallways and the draughts and the heat and the perpetual emptiness in every room, how badly I want this to be more than just a home, how fucking tired I am of doing this all on my own.
I breathe uneasily, I breathe heavily. My emotions just under the surface, my inner-child restless, my ego furious. It has been like this for the last couple of days. I have felt like this for over a decade. An angry undercurrent of other people’s fear, fused into the livewire running deep beneath. I’ve warned you about this. High Voltage. Keep Out. I warn you because I, the keeper, am the most afraid. But in this moment, I cannot fall apart. I cannot give in. I cannot let their fear or my emotions win. I can only breathe.
My breath is all I have, all I need. A soul is so badly suffering when it hurts so much to breathe.
After all this time, I thought I’d learned everything I needed to learn about surviving, about mending. I thought I had the skills and the compassion to carry myself through these last hurdles, but I’m coming to understand that this is only the beginning. I sat here a year ago today. Kitty corner to my left, facing the bar. You could see that livewire shining in my eyes. Sunday brunch was buzzing and I sat next to a couple of strangers, the man I loved waiting for me at home, texting me a list of items to bring back for curry. The sun would go down soon. I felt light and grateful and looking forward to what home would look like for me in the coming weeks. I trusted in the universe, I trusted in love. I still believed that love would be enough to stop war, save the world, change history. Oh, what a heart can endure. What can change in a year.
My love would go on to disappoint me again and again over the next couple of weeks. Until on the 8th of December, he would take it all. My security. My safety. My trust in humanity. My trust in myself. He would break me for no reason other than he was so badly broken, and I would spend my first holiday season on the west coast doing the only thing I do best when I’m in trouble: running. I would forage for community in open ends you never could have held a candle to, literally, to begin with. There would be so much more collective loss and change and growth.
The second seat on the right, with a view of the front door and out the window. I’m facing the spider-plants and the ivy in the wooden planters on the wall. The sun will go down soon. I am ill. Congested, tired, aching. I will return to my empty home full of chaos and I will prepare to rest for another scattered day. I will take notice of the tightening in my spine when I think about my own fear and paranoia around scarcity, of money and time and things. Things I can’t control, and the materiality that drives me crazy, the materiality I’ve dived into so I can leave behind remnants of a life I hope people don’t remember me by. Things made of plastic and paper and discarded, upcycled waste to make this day-to-day “easier.” When it means so much for me to come home, have a home, be at home so I can be my most erratic and imperfect self. Why does it continue to matter this way? I don’t want it to matter this way.
It’s no wonder I’m drowning.
I can end this by offering up the same solutions I’ve always turned to in the past. I can fold this up neatly for your peace of mind. I can tell you I have the ocean, I have new love, I have old friends, I have the pieces of my hopes and dreams that might be incomplete, but are still me. But it doesn’t happen like that quite so easily.
Heavily, uneasily. When I take what I need I will eventually heal myself, part by part, until I can take a deep, full, delicious breath into my belly again. I will be light on my feet again, nimble in my muscles. Unencumbered by illness, sadness, or fear. Recovery is not linear. Neither is love.
I must not choose fear even when I am afraid. Especially when I am afraid. Safe spaces are not just between whitewashed walls and gentle morning light. Safe spaces are here. There. They are in places if I allow myself to see them. If I allow myself to perform, move, exist. Breathe.
I’ve realized that over these last few weeks I’ve been depressed. High-functioning, but ultimately, depressed. It is a natural result of so much collective loss, change, and growth.
I am hard on myself, says my partner. I am hard on myself, say my friends, my roommate, my family. I should have this figured out by now, I say to myself, over and over again. And this is why I am sick. heavy. slow.
B r e a t h e.
When you think you’ve slowed down enough, take the deepest fullest breath you can, and slow down even more. Until you are as close to still as you can be. And then take an even deeper breath. Slow down. Be still.
That is not a quote. Perhaps I am equipped to carry myself through this. Corner by corner. Day by day.
There is so much more growth to be had. There is more compassion to be felt. It is possible for me to believe in love and trust in the universe the way I did before I was broken. All things are possible, perceived impossible until they are done. I am still a meliorist. I am still a realist-optimist with rough spots and cuts and scars shaped like swords and like seagulls.
My heart is light. I have been lifted. I have been carried by love and friendship and opportunity and possibility. I am no longer waiting on the sidelines. I am watching those I care for be transformed and turned inside-out by their passions and creative momentum. It sweeps me up too, but this is for them. The way I’ve always wanted to love other people, soul-first. It isn’t just me taking. They make it easy.
This winter season is going to nourish me. It will allow me to nourish myself. The seasons are slow here. It is still fall. Cold, but still golden. In my half-empty boxes are warm sweaters and wool socks and plenty of tea and soup to be enjoyed with acoustic playlists to make my nights without a fire just as warm.
Love is not linear. Love is not always the kind of love you need. Love is not linear. Love can change.
I am figuring out what kind of love I need. I am figuring out how I can love myself differently. I am figuring out how to heal myself, soul first.
There will always be chaos. Hazards. Half-empty boxes of half-realized dreams. There will be disappointments. Regrets. There hasn’t yet been enough failure. And perhaps what I need this time around is permission, trust, and the ability to let myself fail.
They are in between white walls and strong arms wrapped in a cozy sweater. They are in unplugged weekday brunches, stained bedsheets, and in the final rays of this golden hour. They are drug-free and they are drunken. They are raw and wrapped in bacon.
They lead to rest. They lead to sex. They lead to dreams fully realized, chosen families, communities built to last.
They exist with me, with you, with love.
They begin, always, with breath.